Recently, the B Monster was interviewed, along with big-time
Hollywood producer Dean Devlin ("Independence Day," the
"Godzilla" remake), by the Los Angeles Daily News for an
article pegged to the release of Devlin's "Eight-Legged
Freaks." Dean said his goal was "to try to re-create the
old bug movies using state-of-the-art visual effects without
losing the charm that made the old films so much fun in
the first place." We held our own, defending the vintage
films and their cost-conscious effects, maintaining that
"each one of those films is a classic little American success
story." "Tarantula," "The Deadly Mantis" and "Them!" all
cropped up in the conversation, but we urged the reporter,
several times, to mention the B Monster's favorite big bug
flick. Underrated, rarely heralded, it's atmospheric, suspenseful
and well-acted. Alas, mention of our selection failed to
make the cut. Can you guess what it was? The answer, here,
Veteran character actor Jeff Corey died at St. John's Medical
Center in Santa Monica. He had fallen in his Malibu home
earlier in the week and developed complications while hospitalized.
He was 88. Corey was a prolific actor, whose credits include
appearances in hundreds of films and television programs
spanning every genre. He may be best known to genre-film
fans as vigilante Luke Benson of "Superman and The Mole
Men," the film that first featured George Reeves as the
Man of Steel and led to the popular teleseries, "The Adventures
Throughout his acting career, Corey was also a highly
respected acting teacher, whose students included James
Dean, Anthony Perkins, Shirley Knight, Jane Fonda, Peter
Fonda, Leonard Nimoy, Robin Williams, Rob Reiner, Robert
Towne, Roger Corman, Penny Marshall, Jack Nicholson and
many others. "Acting is life study, and Corey's classes
got me into looking at life as an artist," Nicholson once
said. Corey appeared in dozens of B movies, in uncredited
parts and bit roles as henchmen, reporters, soldiers, even
Abraham Lincoln -- twice! He appeared in such films as "Frankenstein
Meets the Wolf Man," "Follow Me Quietly," "Rock Island Trail,"
"Rawhide" and "Only the Valiant."
Corey had been an actor in New York before he and his
wife relocated to Hollywood in the early 1940s. He found
many film roles, but his career was interrupted by WWII.
Corey served as a combat photographer and earned commendations
for filming a kamikaze attack upon his ship. Following the
war, he resumed his career assaying plum roles in "The Killers,"
"Brute Force" and "Home of the Brave." Then came a subpoena
from the House Committee on Un-American Activities. "Most
of us were retired reds. We had left it, at least I had,
years before," Corey said in "Tender Comrades: A Backstory
of the Hollywood Blacklist." "They just wanted two new names
so they could hand out more subpoenas." Corey refused and
ended up working as a laborer for $14 a day. For more than
a decade, he was blacklisted for refusing to name names.
He didn't appear in another film until 1963. Word of mouth
and his reputation as an articulate, insightful teacher
kept his acting classes going, and one of his students,
Pat Boone, eventually helped secure a role for Corey in
"The Yellow Canary," which restarted his acting career.
Thereafter, he had significant parts in classic films including
"In Cold Blood," "Seconds," "The Cincinnati Kid," "Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "True Grit" and "Little Big
Man," which featured Corey as Wild Bill Hickok. Corey worked
extensively in television, as well, appearing in such programs
as "Mannix," "Bonanza," "Night Gallery," "Star Trek," "Gunsmoke,"
"The Wild, Wild West," "Perry Mason" and many others. He
also directed episodes of "The Bob Newhart Show," "Alias
Smith and Jones," "Night Gallery" and others.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
DEL TORO TO TACKLE "CREATURE"
Rumors regarding the Gill Man's reinvigoration have varied
wildly over the past two decades. Now, according to Production
Weekly, Guillermo del Toro will likely direct the "Creature
from the Black Lagoon" remake. The new version will be shot
on location in Queensland, Australia and at last report
will "loosely follow" the plot of the original and much-beloved
1954 classic. How "loosely"? As defined by contemporary
example, this could mean that the only thing they'll retain
is the lagoon, and this director's tastes have tended to
lean toward the dark and Gothic. Del Toro's most recent
film was the slickly directed, slash-happy bloodfest, "Blade
2." His other credits include "Cronos," "Mimic" and "The
Devil's Backbone." He is next scheduled to direct a big-screen
adaptation of the comic book series "Hellboy."
The nation's Capitol recently hosted the Georgetown Film
Festival, which promoted itself with the following inflammatory
1. "You won't be able to link Kevin Bacon to any of these
2. "A moment of silence for the thousands of man hours
wasted to make 'The Scorpion King.'"
3. Fortunately for Stanley Kubrick, he didn't have to
actually make 'A.I.'"
4. Ang Lee is directing 'The Hulk,' then 'Crouching Tiger
2' ... how do you say 'sell out' in Mandarin?"
5. Trent Lott can come, but only if he brings Traci Lords."
By all accounts, the Imagine-Nation 2002 model builder's
con in Las Vegas was a roaring success. Held this past August
16 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, the con's special
guest was B Monster buddy and Hollywood horror historian
nonpareil Bob Burns, who doled out awards and shared some
of his priceless props with clamoring fans and kit constructors.
According to promoters, the con's mission is to bring together
"some of the most creative minds from around the world ...
to meet, greet, buy and speak about their love of sci-fi,
horror and fantasy. Also in attendance were the always-in-demand
original "Creature From the Black Lagoon," Ben "The Reel
Gill Man" Chapman; movie effects ace Greg Nicotero, whose
credits include "Army of Darkness," "Dune" and "Scream;"
designer Ricardo Delgado of Disney's "Dinosaur," "Atlantis"
and others; as well as Amazing Figure Modeler Magazine co-founder,
David Fisher. All took part in hands-on workshops, seminars
TIME OUT FOR BIG BEN
And speaking of the garrulous Gill Man, why not take a dip
in his hip new digital lagoon, the official Ben Chapman
Web site? You'll find a lengthy letter from Ben to his fans,
a trove of trivia questions culled from the Creature curriculum,
articles from various publications, both print and cyberspacial,
a list of the big man's upcoming personal appearances, a
chronology of news items concerning the gilled guy and an
online gift shop boasting a host of autographed color and
black and white 8 X 10s for sale. You can also post your
thoughts in Ben's guest book, and read the regards posted
by other fans and friends of the famous finned man. It's
all at: http://www.the-reelgillman.com Be sure to tell Ben
that the B Monster sends his warmest "Aloha!"
TED'S "SPAWN" SHOP
Synapse films is set to release Ted Bohus' B-shocker, "The
Deadly Spawn," shortly after Halloween. According to producer/writer/director/seer/soothsayer/test
pilot/rocket scientist and B Monster pal Bohus, "The new
20th Anniversary DVD will be struck directly from my original
16mm A/B roll film negative. There are a few new effects
shots, a blooper reel, audio commentary, the theatrical
trailer, a photo gallery with many never before seen behind-the-scenes
shots, collectors cards from top artists showing their version
of the Spawn ... " Ted ran out of breath at this point,
so on his behalf we'll add that the offering includes a
set of Deadly Spawn Lobby Cards and a 15 page, full-color
comic book -- with music! -- showing the origin of the Spawn
creatures and how they got to Earth, with art from illustrator/effects
artist Markus Metzler. Whew! Better get one before they're
gone! For ordering information, visit: http://www.synapse-films.com
Or visit Ted's place in cyberspace at: www.mycottage.com/spfxmag
Be sure to tell 'em you came at the B Monster's urging!
FAITHFUL TO FAHRENHEIT
Writer/director Frank Darabont has pledged he'll remain
scrupulously true to the source material when he adapts
Ray Bradbury's classic "Fahrenheit 451," promising to "be
as faithful to the book as possible." Darabont told Sci
Fi Wire, "If you love the book, why change it?" Addressing
French director Francois Truffaut's 1966 adaptation, Darabont
ventured that "there was a limit to what they could do back
then, and I'd like to visually treat it as a more realistic
and serious world than they were able to do back then. They
got a little sci-fi-ey with it." Although hard at work on
a script for a fourth Indiana Jones film, Darabont vows
that his work on the Jones franchise will delay production
of "Fahrenheit 451" only slightly. "I'm really keen on doing
'Fahrenheit 451.' That's been my second favorite book of
all time, since I was a kid. While Mr. Bradbury is still
alive and vital, I'd love to get that thing into production."
Darabont's favorite book? "Frankenstein."
BRUSH UP YOUR "STAKE"-SPEARE
Scott Speedman of the late WB teleseries "Felicity" will
play a werewolf opposite vampire Kate Beckinsale in the
forthcoming thriller, "Underworld." Described by The Hollywood
Reporter as a take on "Romeo and Juliet," the film's backdrop
is an age-old war between werewolves and vampires. Beckinsale
will portray Selene, a werewolf killer who falls for Speedman
despite her race's inclination to rid the world of lycanthropes.
Director Len Wisemen is expected to start shooting this
AND FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INEVITABLE ...
20th Century Fox is producing "Aliens vs. Predator." Paul
Anderson is slated to direct the much-talked-about confrontation
based, not on the films, but on a popular video game. The
story involves scientists breeding Alien eggs with which
to attract the vicious Predator, not to mention gullible
movie patrons who will apparently shell out hard-earned
dough for anything that has "Alien" stamped on it.
MAMIE MEETS RETROMEDIA
You can add the name Mamie to the Retromedia roster. According
to highly placed sources in the Retromedia camp, director
Steve Latshaw and cinematographer Gary Graver recently shot
a lengthy interview with sultry screen legend and self-proclaimed
"First Sex Kitten in Cyberspace," Mamie Van Doren. The resulting
Retromedia "Up Close and Personal" video featurette will
make its debut early in 2003. And, getting the jump on the
holidays, Retromedia is offering the "Italian Sci-Fi Collection,"
comprised of "War of the Robots" and "War of the Planets."
These two, "complete and separate DVDs in a boxed set" go
for $19.95 ($14.95 with a Retromedia store discount) and
come with a free Retromedia Christmas Card. For more info,
check out: http://www.retromedia.org As always, tell 'em
the B Monster sent you!
MIDMAR PRESSES ON
Our friends at Midnight Marquee Press have announced the
release of a handful of new titles and re-releases, the
most significant of which may be "Spawn of Skull Island,"
the top-notch "Kong" chronicle by George E. Turner with
Orville Goldner. Now expanded and revised by Michael H.
Price with Douglas Turner, it features introductions by
Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen. Also soon to debut is
"Tuesday's Child: The Life and Death of Imogen Hassall,"
by Dan Leissner, which recounts the abbreviated career and
tragic demise of the actress. "Fantastic Journeys" will
be out by year's end and Midmar's "Actors' Series, Lon Chaney,
Jr." volume will soon be reprinted. Also watch for "Forgotten
Horrors 3" and the first in Steve Haberman's series of books
on silent horror films. For more info, check out: http://www.midmar.com
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Wow! Those two decades flew by, and we say it's high time
for a remake of "Scanners." According to Variety, Artisan
is planning a remake of the 1981 David Cronenberg shocker
best known for its exploding heads. Pierre David and Rene
Malo, who own the rights to the property, will co-produce
the film, which they say will hew closely to the original
story of a group of telepaths attempting to take over the
world. According to David, he and Malo were fielding a potential
television series based on the original film when Artisan
approached them about a feature film remake.
They are not, repeat NOT, making a sequel to the sci-fi
thriller, "Pitch Black." They're making THREE sequels. Actor
Vin Diesel, who starred in the stylishly directed "Alien"
knockoff, has confirmed that he will appear in a trilogy
of sequels featuring his character Riddick, the convict-turned-hero
(or anti-hero) of the original film. "If you're familiar
with the Tolkien novels, in the same way that "Hobbit" is
prequel to "The Lord of the Rings," "Pitch Black" is a prequel
to 'The Chronicles of Riddick' trilogy," the actor said.
According to Diesel, director David Twohy is currently working
on the concept, which he calls "The Evil 'Star Wars.'" And
isn't that just what the world needs, an evil "Star Wars?"
"I always loved the Riddick character," Diesel added, "and
I thought that the Riddick character spoke to our generation."
What generation? The generation of convicted murderers being
transported to space prisons who are attacked by nocturnal,
A HALF-DOZEN HORRORS
Image Entertainment is set to release six infamous 1970s
drive-in classics originally released by Hemisphere Pictures.
Luridly (and appropriately) referred to as "The Blood Collection,"
the set includes five of Hemisphere's notorious Philippine
titles as well as Al Adamson's dubious cult-classic, "Brain
of Blood." "The Blood Drinkers" is accompanied by the original
trailer, as is "Brides of Blood." "Mad Doctor of Blood Island"
features the trailer and the noteworthy "Green Blood" prologue.
"Beast of Blood" features an interview with co-star Celeste
Yarnall, while "Brain of Blood" (the "authorized, complete,
uncut version from the film's original negative") features
invaluable commentary from legendary producer Sam Sherman.
A documentary about and interview with director Eddie Romero
is also a part of the package. Will you be able to resist
this schlock-culture treasure trove? Not bloody likely!
Check out: http://www.image-entertainment.com And be sure
to tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
THREE FROM BIG G
And the folks at Classic Media are poised to unleash a trio
of Toho terrors in the near-future: "Godzilla, King of the
Monsters," Godzilla vs. Mothra" and "Godzilla's Revenge."
All should be stomping to a video outlet near you by September
NEW ON DVD
GIANT GILA MONSTER
Is this a "good" movie? We'll have to define the term. Is
it financially well-mounted, with cohesive continuity and
solid acting? No. Is it a heck of a lot of fun? Yes! In
1959, actor Ken Curtis, second unit director Ray Kellogg
and a Texas radio station owner pooled their resources and
produced two bona fide exploitation classics. "The Killer
Shrews" starred James Best, Curtis and the father of director
Sidney Lumet, menaced by a pack of dogs draped with crepe
hair. "The Giant Gila Monster" has marginally more of what
cult-movie lovers look for in a film. For starters, there's
a GIANT gila monster. Though he trundles some less-than-convincing
miniatures, he's a bit more credible than the painfully
obvious canine "shrews." There are also souped-up hot rods,
a hangout for swingin' teens, a hep cat deejay emceeing
a sock hop, the comic stylings of local drunk Shug Fisher,
and a handful of peppy pop tunes crooned by star Don Sullivan.
Who can forget "The Mushroom Song" ("laugh children, laugh
...") and that hummable "sings whenever she swings whenever
she stings ..." ditty? Sullivan was a serviceable actor
and a passable singer who dropped out of showbiz after appearing
in a batch of "Bs" that are much revered by cult-film enthusiasts,
including "Monster of Piedras Blancas," "The Rebel Set,"
and director Jerry Warren's execrable "Teenage Zombies."
Appearing as Sullivan's exchange student girlfriend is
French import Lisa Simone, who is also credited as one of
the "moon girls" in Richard Cunha's "Missile to the Moon."
Fred Graham, who co-stars as the town sheriff, was one of
Republic Studio's legendary stuntmen, working alongside
Tom Steele and Dave Sharpe in countless Westerns and serials.
His speaking parts prior to "Gila Monster" were usually
small ones as henchmen or posse members. Shug Fisher appeared
in dozens of films by virtue of the fact that he sang with
the famed "Sons of the Pioneers." Later in his career, he
made roles as scruffy drunks and incorrigible schemers his
bread and butter. Producer Ken Curtis, of course, went on
to TV immortality as Festus of "Gunsmoke" fame. He'd begun
his career as a big band vocalist before turning to acting,
most notably as one of John Ford's stock players. He appeared
in 10 Ford films with a sizable role in Ford's "The Searchers."
No doubt Curtis and his partners made back the money they
invested in their twin terror films, and then some. Whether
or not the films convinced audiences, they delivered the
monsters promised by their delightfully lurid titles. So,
IS "Gila Monster" a "good" movie? I don't know. But I DO
know that you should see it. http://www.image-entertainment.com
THE MIGHTY GORGA/ONE MILLION AC/DC
We love director-producer David L. Hewitt, the B-movie renaissance
man who gave us "Monsters Crash The Pajama Party" and "Wizard
of Mars." He accomplished much, considering the precious
little at his disposal, wearing several hats (director,
producer, special effects man, actor) to do so. The double-
and triple-tasking applied to his cast and crew as well.
("Gorga" features one of our favorite screen credits: "Bruce
Kimball as Witch Doctor/Clown.") The budgets were miniscule,
but one always had the sense that Hewitt and company were
having a ball doing what they were doing. Unfortunately,
they don't seem to have been altogether sure WHAT they were
doing when they made "The Mighty Gorga," a terminally anemic,
untenably protracted imitation of "King Kong." It has all
the Hewitt hallmarks: Down-on-their-luck actors (Scott Brady,
Kent Taylor), slapdash special effects and incongruous stock
Anthony Eisley plays a financially strapped circus owner
who ventures into Gorga country hoping to nab the mighty
ape, tote him home and install him as his star attraction.
That's about all the plot there is, with much screen time
spent by Eisley wandering the jungle with heroine Megan
Timothy. "I can't believe this thing's real," she mews when
finally confronting the eponymous simian. Actually, Gorga
is only half as mighty as he might have been, owing to the
fact that Hewitt could only afford half a gorilla suit --
the top half -- which he wore himself. And he's never shown
in relation to anything, so we have no sense of scale. A
village witch doctor moans skyward at the hairy deity, "Oh,
Mighty Gorga," but he might just as well be chatting over
the fence with a neighbor. Oh, it's bad, but "The Mighty
Gorga" was just MADE for all those nosy drivers who tie
up traffic, rubber-necking to get a good look at an accident
scene. To strain the highway metaphor, though it may cause
gridlock, it's difficult to resist a peek at this film --
but ONLY one. Then, on your way. Show's over. Nothing more
to see. Keep moving.
The co-feature, "One Million AC/DC," is notable only because
it was scripted by Ed Wood. B-movie neophytes who are still
relishing the wake of Tim Burton's biopic will want to pick
it up for that reason, and read into it all the psycho-sexual
messages they wish. Perhaps through this screenplay Wood
was cathartically untangling his long-repressed urges toward
sadism and masochism, or rehashing some unresolved issues
with his mother that heretofore could only be expressed
through transvestitism and exhibitionism. The fact that
the alcoholic Wood was WAAAY down on his luck at the time
this film was made (1969), and cranked out the script to
turn a quick buck, may be closer to the truth. Wood devotees
and sleaze-film completists will want to see it, but there
truly is nothing else to recommend it.
As if to offset this double-feature's paucity of intrinsic
merit, the disk includes a fistful of bizarre extras, featurettes
and short subjects. http://www.image-entertainment.com
NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST
This seedy shocker has laughable patches of dialogue, ultra-crude
special effects and a poverty-row appeal that makes it stubbornly
enjoyable. It's also got one the great B-movie titles of
all-time. Who WOULDN'T pay to see something called "Night
of the Blood Beast"? And what an advertising blurb: "No
girl was safe as long as this head-hunting thing roamed
the land!" The fact that the titular Blood Beast resembles
nothing so much as a giant, scorched papier-mache parrot
shouldn't surprise fans of the Corman brothers threadbare
1950s productions. Like so many of the vintage shockers
at which bad-movie connoisseurs look down their noses, "Blood
Beast" is indefensibly tacky, yet brimming with ideas. An
astronaut returns to earth impregnated by a space creature,
his belly about to burst with baby blood beasts. Sound familiar?
Take these notions, stir in Jerome Bixby's "It! The Terror
From Beyond Space," slap on a $6 million coat of paint,
and you've got a pretty fair approximation of "Alien." (Note
to 20-somethings: Ridley Scott and James Cameron DID NOT
invent science fiction.) The serviceable cast includes Ed
Nelson, Michael Emmet and Tyler McVey. Director Bernard
L. Kowalski of "Giant Leech" fame is at the helm, showcasing
our beloved Bronson Canyon to maximum advantage. http://www.retromedia.org
We've written about "Target Earth" umpteen times, so what's
one more enthusiastic write-up gonna hurt? (What comes after
umpteen?) The recently departed, beloved B-movie impresario
Herman Cohen, produced this, one of our all-time favorite
alien-invasion flicks. Why is it a favorite? It ain't the
"lavish" budget or "state-of-the-art" special effects. "Target
Earth" boasts neither. It's the sincerity. It's the fact
that everyone involved is trying so doggone hard -- and
it shows. I don't care that the space robots look like mechanical
hybrids of trash compactors and boardwalk claw machines.
I don't care that most of the action occurs in a sparsely
decorated hotel room. I DO care that cast members Richard
Denning, Kathleen Crowley, Richard Reeves and Virginia Grey
(not to mention the great Whit Bissell, once again hard
at work saving the world) are selling the hell out of the
premise, budget notwithstanding. Today's filmmakers would
take the same scenario and lard it with in-jokes, car chases,
explosions and Aerosmith songs, in essence admitting that
"We're no longer able to scare audiences, so let's treat
the whole thing like a big joke." (Can't you just see Whit
Bissell on Entertainment Tonight touting the film as a "real
roller-coaster ride?") Think about it.
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS
And, while we're on the topic of the very best alien invasion
movies, here's another film near the top of that list. There
are so many reasons to watch it. Watch it for the terrific
cast of B-movie stalwarts, including Hugh Marlowe, Joan
Taylor, John Zaremba and Larry Blake, with the added bonus
of having both Morris Ankrum AND Thomas Browne Henry, the
B's leading authority figures, as the General and the Admiral,
respectively. Watch it as unquestionably the best example
of producer Sam Katzman and director Fred Sears' teamwork.
Enjoy it for the sonorous, threatening tones of Paul Frees
as the alien's voice. But the most compelling reason to
partake is to experience Ray Harryhausen's riotously ambitious
special effects. Nearly 50 years have passed, and his are
still some of the most impressive flying saucers ever to
spin. The audacious climactic battle in Washington, D.C.,
wherein convincingly replicated landmarks and monuments
are destroyed by crashing alien craft, is still mind-blowing.
"Warning! Take cover," the posters warned. "Flying saucers
invade our planet! Washington, London, Paris, Moscow fight
back!" What child (or inner child, as the case may be) can
resist such heraldry?
Director Joe Dante takes the conventions established by
"Fantastic Voyage" and turns them on their ear with great
humor and crackerjack pacing. In this underrated, deft blend
of sci-fi and slapstick, Dennis Quaid plays a miniaturized
test pilot -- a micronaut, if you will -- injected into
Martin Short's already kinetically unstable body. The premise
as described is funny, and Dante could have churned out
a by-the-numbers parody of the aforementioned "Voyage,"
but instead, brings innovation and his genuine affection
for the genre to the table. The film would be entertaining
enough were Short just turned loose, flapping and twisting
his pliable body to comedic effect. But it's clear that
Dante and his scripters are genre-fans ("Invasion of the
Body Snatchers" star, Kevin McCarthy, is prominent in the
cast), and the science fiction elements of the story are
given equal weight, allowing for some genuinely exciting
sequences. The film arrives at a satisfying balance of humor
and suspense, rare in contemporary films. And, you can watch
it with your kids!
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.com
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"A new kind of terror to numb the nerves!" -- Monster That
Challenged the World